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That Makes Sense

Observations and Microblogs from the Career Support Group of ex-IIScians

To Bio or Not to Bio

in That Makes Sense by
Editor’s note: The members of the Career Support Group (CSG) for STEM PhDs might have fond remembrance of their teen years when it became nerve-wracking to make that choice. I am not referring about the choice of who-to-date but the choice of taking up Science, Commerce or Arts as majors to move-up the livelihood ladder. In the Sunday Blog from ClubSciWri, Sayantan Chakraborty brings out the ways where the lights should not go out on the aspirations of a starry-eyed biology undergrad. “To Bio or not to Bio” is one of the blogs that you might like to share with your friends who are helping their kids take decisions for their future careers after a biology major.  Surely, the kids are way smarter so Sayantan does mention that “Read, learn, and update yourself with the upcoming careers paths and how to mold your present to shape the future” and we are sure they will figure out how to beat the robots in creating a new Earth on Mars. Are you listening Elon Musk?- Abhinav Dey

Our neighbor’s child is now going to study MBBS after his class 12th. You should learn something from them.” This is a common dialogue in India. Every student in high school who studied biology gets to hear it – either from his/her parents or someone else. Although this can be said in many forms, it’s almost unavoidable, and parents tend to lose sleep pondering about their child’s career. In some cases, as soon as we are born, parents tend to decide our profession, most notably – engineering or medicine.

Given the significant population growth in India over the years, the sheer number of students has dramatically increased the competition amongst them. Competition is inevitable whether in life or in profession or in nature. But, it is not surprising to learn that students tend to follow the herd. A lot of them start preparing for their medical entrance examinations while some enroll for Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) courses (specializing in Zoology/Botany or any applied fields of biology). Those who can’t make it through the entrance exams, subsequently enroll for similar B.Sc. courses. Some of the curious and the enthusiastic minds move on to pursue a Ph.D. with a sheer will to become a Professor or a scientist in the future. Some make it, but the others move on to alternate careers. Becoming a professor or a scientist is a tedious and nerve-wracking journey and only those who tread this path would tell its tales. However, given the tight situation of academic positions, a number of PhDs switch to alternate careers even though the passion of being a scientist burns within them. Some transition out of academia in time, while others remain oblivious of alternate careers and their scope. Why is that? There are and could be many answers, but one of them is critical – the lack of proper guidance.

We, as school goers are never informed about the variety of prospects that we can explore apart from medicine or biological sciences post class 12th. Not every student is of the same intellectual level and although no one should ever under estimate themselves and stop dreaming big, they shouldn’t be kept in the dark about other career prospects. It’s better to prepare and work towards more options. Mentioned below are various career choices that a student who’s studying biology (along with other subject combinations) can prepare and decide for. As you might notice, these courses are different from the traditional biological courses (Zoology, Botany, Biotechnology, Microbiology, Genetics etc.).

  1. Law
  2. Fashion Technology/Design
  3. Journalism and Mass communication
  4. Web development/animations/graphics/multimedia
  5. Geology
  6. Event management
  7. Air hostess/pilot/aviation training
  8. Management education
  9. Bachelor of Audiology Speech Language Pathology.
  10. Forensic science
  11. Food Technology
  12. Agriculture
  13. Sports science
  14. Speech therapy
  15. Physiotherapy
  16. Nursing
  17. Pharmacy
  18. Hospital management
  19. Commerce streams (Chartered accountancy)
  20. Armed forces
  21. Civil services

While choosing a course of study, it’s very important to follow your passion and interests. Do NOT follow the herd! It’s recommended to take advice from well-wishers and peers alike, however, never let those advice dictate your path. Read, learn, and update yourself with the upcoming careers paths and how to mold your present to shape the future. Lastly, remember, nothing worth having comes easy.

 

The following websites were referred for this post:

http://www.apnaahangout.com/top11coursestodoafter12thscience/

https://www.quora.com/Whataresomeoptionsforabiologystudentafterclass12thinIndia

http://educationwalablog.blogspot.com/2013/05/top10careerafter12thsciencefor.html

 

About the author:

Sayantan Chakraborty

I am an IRTA postdoctoral visiting fellow at the National Institute on Aging – National Institutes of Health, Baltimore. Apart from science, I invest my time in networking, organizing events, and consolidating efforts to build a platform for guiding school students to their suitable career choice.

 

Featured image source: Pixabay

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5 Mantras to ‘effectively complete’ THAT Online Course

in That Makes Sense by
Editor’s Note: A Brand New Year is here and everyone is abuzz in their minds with their New Year resolutions. At the Career Support Group (CSG) for STEM PhDs, a lot of members are resolving to fine tune their skills through online courses. But staying focused to complete these courses is no less harder than sustaining that gymming habit meant to lose those oodles of weight gained during the holiday season.  Well, trust Madhurima’s experience to help you in choosing those horses to cruise through those courses. ClubSciWri wishes for a successful and positive start to everyone’s 2017!- Abhinav Dey

 

Online courses have been around for a few years now. Coursera, Venture Labs and many more portals have innumerable courses ranging a wide breadth of topics. While online courses are the perfect place to go for those who want to learn new things, it is also a great way to build skills that will help you go up a few notches in your career. Some of the courses may be directly connected to your area of study or current work, while some may be diametrically opposite. Some of the learnings may be immediately visible and some may be more latent.

 

Five Mantras to effective complete that online course

  1. Choose a course that interests you 

Interest is the key word here.  Do not choose a course just because someone is doing it.  While there is a lot of flexibility, it is essential to remember that you have to figure out the best way to make the most out of them.  So, choose a course topic about which you are motivated to pick up a book or read the slides, end of a long day.

  1. Work with a study partner or a study group

They could be geographically spread out or even your close friends in the same city. It helps to have a partner in crime. Build a rapport and work together, making the most of each of your complementary skills.

  1. Plan for the course and create a time table

Plan the time commitment ahead.  Understand how much time you can invest in a six week course.  Prepare mentally for it, and then physically too. Treat it with as much seriousness as you would a regular course. Timetable for assignments and deadlines, make lists of what you have learnt, what is the next session about and your work that needs to be completed.

  1. Online courses are like a Pandora’s Box

You have to figure out how individual assignments work for you, video lessons, audio lessons and presentations.  During the course, also focus on the learning tool being used. Before you know, you have learnt a whole lot of new things.

  1. Self-motivation is the key

Remind yourself why you are doing this. Be disciplined. While you complete the suggested reading material, read anything you find on the topic. Always helps to widen your horizons, literally.

 

Speaking about my personal experience, I have done a few courses from Stanford Venture Labs on Creativity, Design Thinking and Technology Entrepreneurship. This was almost four years back. I did it with a few friends and the group study sessions were immensely helpful.  Also, the fact that we were from diverse backgrounds ensure lot of new learning, at both conceptual and practical level. I, over the years, have used the techniques/concepts learnt for my training sessions and they have been appreciated.  I guess as I write this piece, it is time I find that next online course.

 

Madhurima Das

About the author:

madhurima-das

A Human Resource Management (HRM) and Policy research consultant; passionate about psychology, poetry and people; grammar, writing and movies. Is also a HRM, Communications and Work-Life trainer. A clinical psychologist, with a doctorate degree in Human Resource Management from the Department of Management Studies, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru. Was the Chief Evangelist and Co-founder of Gubbi Labs’ Research Media Services and its flagship venture, the Science Media Center at Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru. Blogs at www.madhurimadas.blogspot.com.

Edited by: Abhinav Dey

Image source: Pixabay

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CSG LinkedIN Discussions

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In an initiative to alert and engage members of the forum, the Career Support Group (CSG) for STEM PhDs had started an awareness campaign in August (2016) to improve their networking, presence and appearance on LinkedIN. We thank our members who have contributed for various suggestions and posts. Here is a briefing of all that was shared.

Are you new to LinkedIN? Want to know how to organize the profile and get the competitive advantage. We list a 15 points which will be helpful in creating and maintaining a competitive LinkedIN profile.

  1. Profile Picture: Don’t use profile pictures wearing shades, no full-size profile picture, use your single portrait image for the profile, not with your pets or friends. More info at https://business.linkedin.com/talent-solutions/blog/2014/12/5-tips-for-picking-the-right-linkedin-profile-picture
  2. Name: Include your full name, followed by degree or your specialization. Make sure your name appears when your name types on google, at least along with the specialization.
  3. Profile (include education, experience, honors, awards): Keep an up to date profile-avoid being unscrupulous. http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/professional-linkedin-profile/ Under each section of your degree, summarize what were the major achievements. Year gaps are unavoidable at times, but be honest. If you are anticipating a gap in near future, enroll for a course or internship – create an impression that you are engaged and targeted towards your goal. https://www.themuse.com/advice/17-musthaves-for-your-linkedin-profile
  4. Courses, volunteering and other interests: List all the courses and volunteering you have done at undergraduate, graduate and at any level. Everyone must have done some volunteering at any level, make sure to include.
  5. Skills: Add all the skills you have. Move the best skills to the top. Request people to endorse you for the skills which would help attracting the recruiters. Write a formal mail or short message or post on social media. Don’t forget sending a ‘thank you’ note for people who endorsed you.
  6. Recommendations: Ask your peers, mentors, colleagues or your mentees to recommend you on LinkedIN. Write to them asking you to recommend, in turn you can recommend them. Be honest in recommending, unlike a regular quid pro quo. http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/write-linkedin-recommendation#sm.001fla1vzp6gd1e11i612u5bfnwxs
  7. Connections: Connect with colleagues, peers, mentors and mentees. Try to connect with people who are in your area of interest; send them a formal request rather than just sending a request as friend.
  8. Sharing and following on LinkedIN: LinkedIn is not Facebook; please don’t share unnecessary things. If you “like” some post on LinkedIn, it would be visible on the wall of your connections. So think before you like. Follow peers, companies and organizations of your interest.
  9. Premium account: More job postings are visible/available on premium account. What if you don’t want to buy premium and still want to take advantage? Premium account is free for a month; you can apply as many jobs as possible by using this facility in that month.
  10. Keep your momentum going: Keep in mind if you “like” some post at LinkedIn that would be visible on the wall of your connections. So think before you like. Same for making a comment which is also visible to your connections, think before you write a comment.
  11. Keep “who viewed your profile” option on, if you visit someone’s profile they should know you have visited and vice versa. Hiding the profile and stalking someone is not recommended.
  12. Send invitation requests, but if not accepted do not send repeated request.
  13. Read 10-20 minutes on topic of your choice on LinkedIN
  14. Try to learn at least one new thing in a week. In interviews it is not an uncommon question.
  15. Reach out to at least one connection per week

 

About the Author:

srinvas

Srinivas Aluri is postdoc at Albert Einstein College, NY. He is a fitness enthusiast, exercise and diet expert. He is also an international sports science association certified fitness trainer as well as American Heart Association’s CPR/AED certified professional.

Edited by Abhinav Dey

Photo source: Wikipedia

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My trysts with stage fright

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Public speaking. If these two words evoke a frightened sigh or a sudden desire to slowly vanish without anyone noticing, welcome to my erstwhile world. While I was always supremely confident in informal conversations with my peers, I stammered, stuttered, or just stayed quiet through most of the formal scenarios in high school. In 9th grade I was asked to read the poem ‘Macavity, the mystery cat’ by T.S.Eliot in our English class. The book was right in front of me and I did not even have to stand. And yet, as the teacher called out my name, I froze, and my heartbeat shot up. The pounding didn’t stop till well after I had finished. I didn’t actually do a bad job, but that did not prevent the onset of these symptoms again when I was offered the prospect of reading out aloud in class.

In 11th grade, I was determined to tackle this problem—I was well versed in the English language and was reasonably articulate, yet why did speaking in front of others terrify me? I joined leadership training classes. The class itself used to be almost empty, and all that was required was to speak on a random topic. The setting suited me perfectly—few people meant fewer witnesses to my shortcomings and the lazy pace helped me ramp up my confidence in tiny notches. However, a class strength of 5 meant that many-a-times, I was speaking to an almost empty class and after some initial flustering, I soon got habituated without a huge deal of improvement.

 

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

 

College life was low-key in terms of extra-curricular involvement. My pattern of debating and discussing with friends, while staying quiet in class continued. While two of my friends went on to participate in debating competitions, I could never muster up the courage. The next time when I had to talk in a formal setting was when I had to present my Masters’ thesis. My friends at university came from varied backgrounds, and some, unlike me, had to suffer the combined bout of stage fright and inexperienced meandering through the English language. Seeing my friends struggle and yet try their best to overcome their drawbacks did embolden me—we were all tensed and filled with dread, but in all fairness, their struggle was harder. My main armor in such a situation was to practice till I had the entire flow clear in my head. I would write down most parts of the talk, a practice I continue till this day, though I have become increasingly flippant about it. I think I practiced my talk at least twenty times before the final day, which helped me to deliver a decent lecture despite initial shakiness.

 

I … never could make a good impromptu speech without several hours to prepare it.“- Mark Twain

 

Joining the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) opened up a Pandora’s Box of opportunities for public speaking. We had regular ‘journal clubs’ which meant presenting a scientific paper in front of the department every few weeks. Adopting the adage of ‘practice makes perfect’ I made full use of my journal club slots. My presentations got better and the fright went down quite a few notches. As with many other irrational fears, the pounding heart, clammy palms, and the extreme anxiety have not really gone away. They appear at the beginning of every talk and yet with experience, I am able to manage them well—and are usually not detected by the audience. The pretense of confidence has been an old friend and as time passes, conviction continues to replace it.

One major turning point in this trajectory was joining the students’ council at IISc. I had been volunteering for quite some time, and soon got an opportunity to introduce the committee I worked for in the main auditorium during a freshers’ orientation program. It was a 3 minute talk and I was only co-speaking, but my stage fear came back in full force. I had never spoken in such a big hall before and lost quite a bit of sleep over that 3-minute introduction. I remember continually practicing the talk while pacing up and down  in the restroom on the program day. All the frenzied preparation paid off and the actual staged introduction (which was probably the 101st time I was vocalizing it) went off without a glitch. Since then I have given a lot of such 3-minute introductions, votes of thanks, and opening sentences for students’ council programmes during my tenure. I managed to be a (hopefully!) not-so-unsuccessful teaching assistant for the neuroscience module of the newly initiated undergraduate program at IISc. Much experience has been gathered, and the potency of stage fright seems less. While flamboyant, impromptu anchoring for shows or programs seems very unlikely, gearing up for a well-practiced academic talk does not seem as terror-inducing as before. In all this rigmarole, I would always remember the surreal jubilance I felt after giving that first 3-minute introduction—it was such a small thing in the light of so many significant milestones people cross, and yet, I knew, it was a very important personal landmark for me. I was the same girl who once trembled reading a poem out aloud, and had never imagined that I could actually talk to a big audience, and I had just done that. I remember that feeling afresh and it is one of those things that occupies my life’s memory box.

 

There are always three speeches, for every one you actually gave.  The one you practiced, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave.”  –Dale Carnegie

 

Public speaking is something integral to a scientist’s life, whether it is taking classes or giving talks at a conference. Not all scientists make brilliant speakers, and while that requires a different kind of effort, this piece is for all those out there who are struggling with a fear of public speaking. I believe what helped me was starting out in small groups, instead of accelerating into a high-pressure arena. If one looks around, one would see many with the same predicament, so do not give up! Practice groups also work wonders, however, if that is not possible, just practice aloud and do fair assessments. Take pride in the smallest of successes and egg yourself on! If I could reach a level of ease starting from the nadir, so can anyone else! You are your best cheerleader and if you stumble, inject some comfort and much-needed enthusiasm and get ready for the next round. The tougher the journey, the greater is joy of crossing the hurdle. There is no end to learning, there is no final destination, but only traversing from one elevating goal to the next, culminating in one remarkable path.

 

A book may give you excellent suggestions on how best to conduct yourself in the water, but sooner or later you must get wet, perhaps even strangle and be “half scared to death.” There are a great many “wet less” bathing suits worn at the seashore, but no one ever learns to swim in them. To plunge is the only way.” — Dale Carnegie

 

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About the author : Debaleena is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India. She loves writing and has recently forayed into the domain of science writing.

Illustration : Ipsa

head-shot

Ipsa is a Ph.D. student at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India. She wants to gather and spread interestingness. She prefers painting and drawing over writing.

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The myths about networking

in That Makes Sense by

During a recent talk  I gave on transitioning to tech transfer from academia at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine (Bronx, NY, USA), I was asked quite an interesting set of questions. In this write up I want to focus on two issues which I find many of the young academicians struggle as they plan their next career move.
A young aspiring postdoc asked me from the crowd “ When I see all the alternative career choices I get totally lost. I wonder what is the best fit for me?” I have been trained to think about the experiment and publish and enjoy the academic, intellectual rigor and I feel totally lost as soon as I see the list of alternative careers and wonder where should I start?”
Those who have transitioned to alternative careers have found that what helps most is talking to people who have made the leap. One can either reach out to alumni from your institutes or now with the availability of LinkedIn and Facebook you can reach out to people beyond your alumni and ask for an informational interview. From what I have seen people are always willing to help if you are earnest in your approach. During such interactions, you can ask them about the job roles and responsibilities and also how their academic training gets utilized in their new role outside academia.
An another approach to test whether you will be suitable for such a career would be to do internships/ online or regular courses which can give you the flavor of the job. In my case, an internship with technology transfer offices at Cornell CTL and Columbia CTV were of immense help. I had known beyond any doubt that this is exactly what I want to do. Of course, I had great mentors in tech transfer, and that always helps.

There is also a misconception that whether alternative careers can be intellectually stimulating given one of the things which drive most of us in academia is the intellectual aspect of the profession and of course the creativity. From what I have seen from my experience and from others who have transitioned more or less with me, one would be surprised to see the kind of smart people who runs the world outside academia. In fact, they many times brings more meaning to academic science as the science steps out of the lab. More than once during my interaction with my colleagues I have often wondered how much science would have benefited had they continued academia. Apart from academics, many are fluent from Beethoven to Shakespeare to Charlie Parker to Ravishankar…and often flawless in their assessment.

So my suggestion would be to talk to people, get to know about what excites them about their work and what doesn’t. When you meet people, you can also gauge from their personality that whether such a job will suit your personality or not. Even if nothing substantial comes out of the meeting, at least you will make an attempt to make a new friend outside academia, and that is a good start.

The another question that I got asked was “When should one start to network? Also, everyone will know that he or she is desperate for a job which will defeat the entire purpose of networking.”

Networking is not to seek a job. That is perhaps the biggest misunderstanding. No one asks for a job in networking. It is to find common ground. However, one should mention at a suitable time that you are ready for a new opportunity or challenge in your career. Moreover, networking events are the best places to find your mentors or sponsors and just like academia it always help to have them by your side.

I remember in one of the career development events at NYAS, New York a speaker said: “You should start networking from yesterday.” One should do networking throughout the year, whether you are in a job or looking for a job or planning to make a leap to a new field. I have known professionals who got great introductions from the people they met in jazz bars or from soccer matches they played together. So make sure you have a life outside lab to talk to people about your hobbies and interest. You will be surprised how hobbies can be a game changer.

One needs to learn the art of talking to professionals in networking events, and that once can develop with time. One of the best ways is to practice your introductory pitch, and that itself can take months. Remember the first impression always counts. We have seen many during networking events slips in his/her resume and that according to many is an absolute no. Everyone in networking events is in general aware that people who are attending the session have either came to learn about new opportunities, job description or are looking for new challenges, so don’t be shy. Keep a smile and reach out, show your strengths your passion and commitment to try new opportunities.

In a world we live in there are now other forms of networking. LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook are all great platforms to network and meet interesting people. There are several career support groups. Join them, engage in stimulating and useful conversations. You will be surprised you will have friends sooner than you thought and who will vouch for you during your job search phase. Therefore, learn the tricks of social networking sites and use them to your advantage. Also, networking is not only about asking, but it is also about sharing and many comfortable forgets that part, unfortunately.

To conclude, meet new people with an open mind, help them if you can, all the person in front of you wants to know is how interesting are you professionally.

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Ananda

Enjoys good friends, music and adda.

Tweet@Andz79

Others who contributed substantially to the ideas expressed in the write-up are Roshni, Satarupa, Gaurav, Sutirtha, and Madhurima.

Image Courtesy: https://pixabay.com/en/truss-historically-stolberg-resin-1731118/

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Avoiding anxiety attacks in today’s contract based academic training-10 commandments

in That Makes Sense by

“It brings a persistent low-grade anxiety that lingers around my heart, sometimes traveling up to constrict my throat as the time remaining on my contract dwindles. Rinse, and repeat. For years. I don’t know what impact this lifestyle is having on my health, but it can’t be good.” The Guardian about contract based positions in academia. https://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/2016/dec/02/short-term-contracts-university-academia-family?CMP=share_btn_tw

How to circumvent the situation?

As long as you are in Ph.D., things are fine, there is a stability for at least 5-6 yrs where a continuous source of scholarship is promised on paper, however, the situation changes once you are a scholar and now want to move onto the next obvious training in academia which is postdoc and which is unfortunately, CONTRACTUAL. The training is a must to pursue an academic career and rightly so.

But how to avoid getting trapped by the feeling described aptly above?

Here are 10 points which I feel might help:

  1.  Do not put all your eggs in one basket.
  2. Be aware of the employability scenario.
  3. Network and meet people, talk to people, use social networking sites.
  4. Develop SKILLS beyond the bench, Ph.D. is a long time to DISCOVER yourself- what you are good at and what you are not made for.
  5. Be truthful to your potentials- Most of us are not truthful to ourselves. We will ignore all the signs which tell us that this might not be the right thing for us, till we fall into the trap.
  6. Do proper due diligence on the Postdoc lab.
  7. Choose mentors not the university.
  8. Think ahead-Plan the career, does not mean you should not relax and enjoy your life outside the lab hours.
  9. Have alternative BACKUP plans.
  10. Have a financial plan from day one of Ph.D. – It will help in the times of despair.

 

13876192_10153622641800047_7637481486705765851_n

Ananda

Enjoys good friends, music and adda.

Tweet@Andz79

Image Courtesy:

Copyright “Piled Higher and Deeper” by Jorge Cham
www.phdcomics.com

 

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Aarthi Existential

in Sci-Pourri/That Makes Sense by

Aarthi Parthasarathy is a very well-known artist and film maker who finds joy in nurturing the creative energy within her and others and successful at doing so. She defies the conventional definition of success in terms of power or money but that does not lessen her happiness even by an ounce as per her own admission. She found a way out of our existing education system and its traps to set up a film making studio with her friend and colleague Chaitanya. They work out of a cozy nook that houses animators, sculptors, musicians, photographers, and product designers. She is also part of kadak collective that creates a platform for women comic writers and artists to tell uncensored stories on gender disparity.

Well, her journey is certainly not straight forward but rather quite bumpy and curvy and luckily she had her seat belts on. She grew up in erstwhile Bombay which is ‘Mumbai’ now and throughout schooling has been an A+ grade student as per present day standards. Siddharth Basu’s or Derek O’ Brien’s quiz shows and encyclopedias and ‘tell me why’s books filled her childhood spare time. As she started understanding the world better, she loathed the current teaching practices that made her memorize than learn. She found herself craving for learning out of school (as it was not possible within school) and started drawing inspiration plus learning from real lives through reading biographies echoing Gaurav Goyal’s conversations with club sciwri (http://www.sciwri.club/archives/1664). If we think that Aarthi is alone in her disbelief in the education system, the MHRD survey shows that the highest dropout rate for science students happens after the bachelor’s degree ( http://mhrd.gov.in/sites/upload_files/mhrd/files/statistics/EAG2014.pdf). The reasons for this could be twofold: one, not many attractive (well-paying except IT) career opportunities after science education and two, teaching practices killing curiosity, the backbone of scientific success.

Coming back to Aarthi and her journey, she indulged in a lot of self-learning by visiting the libraries, reading books and watching plays to satisfy her curiosity to learn about the world. During one of those visits, life caught her unaware. She stumbled upon a book by J.Krishnamurthy, the well-known philosopher and founder of Rishi Valley School. In a brief moment she realized that the cause of her inner struggle was the awkwardness of fitting in a fractured society. The exact words that brought about the transformation in her  are “I wonder if we have ever asked ourselves what education means, why do we go to school, why do we learn various subjects, why do we pass examinations and compete with each other for better grades? What does this so called education mean, what is it all about? This is really a very important question, not only for the students, but also for parents, for teachers,why do we go through struggle to be educated? Is it merely to pass some examinations and get a job? Or is it the function of education to prepare us while we are young to understand the whole process of life? Having a job and earning one’s livelihood is necessary-but is that all? …”  These words became an anchor to her thought process and as a constant reminder and companion; she carries a copy of the book with her always.

She wanted to be a doctor or geologist and the anxiety caused by endless hours of study were made tolerable by creative outlets like writing, painting and other forms of art. She was fighting her inner urge to learn independently through reading, thinking, making, and experimenting just for the love of doing it, to scratch an itch, follow the compass of passion versus making a clone of her to fit into the fractured and moulded society. An answer to her struggles lay in the hands of most unexpected quarters, a clerical mistake. At St.Xavier’s college Mumbai, a clerical mistake with an application for geology was turned into an admission for B.Sc Economics drove her towards pursuing the next best thing that she loved arts. She interviewed at Shrishti College of Arts where the faculty set up ingenious interviews and made students perform creative tasks for a period of four days. She fell in love with the people, the teaching, the college and the learning instantly.She explored the art of learning and teaching through storytelling using various forms of visual communication and she still gets fascinated everyday by the light, color, composition, and framing;and how it all blends to culminate in a beautiful story. She is glad about giving ears to her inner voice and finding something she enjoys doing every day and not being a clone (of doctor or geologist or whatever) struggling inside forever participating in a ruptured society.

The story of her journey only reiterates what all of us know but seldom practice. Education should teach us the courage to explore and listening actively to voices from within to hone our natural abilities and become truly happy individuals, not just successful clones. Education in its true essence would teach us to seek answers for the inherent quests and find happiness in those pursuits.

Find her work at https://www.facebook.com/royalexistentials/ and https://www.behance.net/aarthipartha

Image is taken from her weekly blog, Royal Existentials with her permission.

The article was written by Satya Lakshmi.

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Satya Lakshmi is a scientist by profession and an explorer by hobby. She is constantly on the lookout for the next learning adventure and loves reading. You can find her pursuing professional interests at the interface of biology and business.

Ipsa Jain interviewed Aarthi and helped editing the piece.

 

The question: Burning excess calories post exercise

in SciWorld/That Makes Sense by

Combining resistance and endurance exercises potentiates fat loss and muscle hypertrophy

You don’t burn calories while working out alone, body continues to burn calories even after the cessation of the workout. It was attributed to excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), which remains high after aerobic exercise as well as anaerobic exercise. In addition, lactic acid produced, during strenuous exercise, in muscle cells has to be diverted/oxidized back to other metabolites, which might also contribute to the excess calorie consumption after the workout. These 2 hypotheses however could not completely explain burning of more calories after exercise.

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The science behind

Researchers at Harvard University detailed the science behind these hypotheses. They found that endurance induces a hormone which converts white adipose tissue (tissue which stores fat) into brown adipose tissue (tissue which burns fat). Irisin is the hormone produced upon endurance exercise in mice and human subjects which regulates this process. Irisin has been in the news ever since as an exercise hormone. In another study, by the same group, they found the scientific reason why resistance exercise induces muscle hypertrophy. When human subjects performed resistance exercises such as leg press, chest press etc., Insulin like growth factor (a hallmark protein for muscle hypertrophy) production was enhanced.

Interestingly, both the endurance and resistance exercise benefits were under the control of a master protein called PGC1 α. This protein is differentially produced in the body according the nature of the exercise performed. If endurance exercise is performed it produces the beneficial effects of burning fat; if resistance exercise is done muscle hypertrophy results.

PGC1 α is very important protein, a person’s athletic performance is determined in part by it. Genetic mutations in this protein affect athletic performance of the individual.

Kill two birds with one stone: resistance and endurance exercise

It was also reported that PGC1-α is induced at a higher level when resistance (anaerobic) exercise is performed after endurance (aerobic) exercise, which is called concurrent training. Combining both exercises, thus, will have a synergistic effect on overall health.

The future

There has been no golden rule for how much workout has to be done for achieving desirable health benefits- either fat loss or muscle gain. It could be possible, in future, that amount of production might be used as readout for endurance or resistance exercise for each individual. Proper exercise regime and nutritious diet could help maintain general wellbeing and attain dream physique.

 

 

About the Author:

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Srinivas Aluri is postdoc at Albert Einstein College, NY. He is a fitness enthusiast, exercise and diet expert. He is also an international sports science association certified fitness trainer as well as American Heart Association’s CPR/AED certified professional.

P.S: This article was blogged at an untraceable place. It’s been edited and published here.

 

Photo source: builtlean.com and Pixabay

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This work by ClubSciWri is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Transitioning to a faculty position in India – skills that defines one during screening

in That Makes Sense by

As in case with any other academic position, applying for a faculty position in India can be likened to skillful maneuvering of a ship through the storm. After working relentlessly through his/her training phase, a faculty job aspirant finds himself/herself into a more challenging situation where one has to skillfully present the honed skills to be in reckoning in the highly competitive bottlenecked academic job market. I had a quite a long discussion with many of my colleagues planning to transition into the academia in India. Indeed, a great CV with a good publication record is something that definitely pushes the application forward, but our general perception was – there are certain skills that speak volumes of our ability to become future group leaders.

During PhD and post-doctoral tenure, one develops a vast array of skills. However, when it comes to the final destination that is, obtaining a faculty position in a good institution, everything zeros down to the trait that defines the person for the position. In general, a person’s capability to run an independent lab is usually judged during the personal interview stage. However, many faculty position ads (in biological sciences, India) asked for enlistment of skills that one has acquired till the time of application. We found it very peculiar and unusual for an academic position because these kind queries are generally associated with industrial settings. We soon realized that other than scientific output, the initial screening of candidates also involved his/her understanding of the nuances for running an independent group and how he/she has developed skills other than technical, to be proficient in it. A positive attitude on this aspect during the personal interview stage may also result in scoring important points.

The Career Support Group (CSG) discussion on this aspect brought in opinions from Siddharth Tallur, Dileep Vasudevan Thenezhi, Smita Salian Mehta, Hirak S Basu and Kaneenika Sinha whose general suggestion was to focus on the set of skills the selection committee might be looking in their future colleague and hence, highlight them in the application. These are the areas of expertise a faculty aspirant must develop during the training period in order to present oneself more positively in front of the committee.

A broad perspective was obtained, which is summarized below:

1.     Independently mentoring students especially graduate students that also involves ability to describe the problem to them lucidly

2.     What kind of service did you provide to the scientific community? Services such as reviewing papers, organization of conferences/workshops tutorials

3.     Setting up fruitful collaborations which may comprise inter-research groups or with one’s own PI

4.     Writing independent grants – this in fact, shows how a person is able to think independently in spite of working in a research group. Here both successful trials and important misses can be highlighted.

5.     In real sense, applying for a position with an approved grant scores highly in the academic corridors.

6.     Development of a new area of research in PI’s lab and describing what kind of skills, achievements a person has gained towards the completion of the project. This area of research might become one’s core research focus in future and any kind of past publications in the area (as first/co-corresponding author) will go a long way in defining that person’s independence in the field.

7.     Any kind of experimental techniques that one has developed or may have in-depth expertise which he/she can develop in the scientific community and mentor.

8.     A definitive research plan for five years that includes how one intends to supervise the PhD students

9.     The teaching responsibilities donned/shared by the candidate during the training period and the subjects/areas he/she will be comfortable teaching/initiating in the host institution.

In summary, a person aspiring to transition into academia needs to develop/highlight the expertise gained during the training period that depicts how as a prospective faculty, the person has evolved from a co-worker to an independent mentor in the research group. May be these nine points are not that exhaustive, but surely can be further developed by incorporating more challenging experiences shared by the community.

Devanjan Sinha

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Presently, I am Assistant Professor at Institute of Science, Banaras Hindu University, India. I completed my doctoral dissertation from Department of Biochemistry, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. I briefly worked as a Research Associate at IISc, before transitioning to this position.  Further details on my academic journey is available on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dr-devanjan-sinha-195a8880

Image source: Pixabay

Edited by: Abhinav Dey

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This work by ClubSciWri is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Odra Noel- A Scientist by day, Artist at other times

in Sci-Pourri/That Makes Sense by

Cosmologist Lawrence Krauss had said, “Science and art ask the same questions.” Hence, it may not seem surprising that many inventors and scientists have pursued artistic pursuits alongside scientific research. Leonardo Da Vinci’s Vitruvian man is a reminder that art and science complement each other. It is a perfect example how the skill of illustration proves to be invaluable for exploring as well as communicating scientific ideas, even across language divides. While the approach to answering the same fundamental questions may be different, there is a common element of wonder and curiosity. While the laboratory is the temple of scientific discipline, curiosity and imagination have been at the helm of some scientific discoveries. Kekule found/discovered the structure of benzene in a dream, imagining a snake seizing its tail. A story has been popularized that a rescue operation against cannibals resulted in the invention of the sewing machine by Elias Hawke. Einstein’s wild imagination of him riding a light beam has brought humanity so far. It is therefore not surprising that some of the great scientists also dabbled with art, music, and painting. Richard Feynman played the bongo and Einstein played the violin.
But, can  passion lead to a sustainable profession? To pursue the question that intrigues me of late, I started researching on the lives of modern scientists who are juggling between their profession and passion. Not very long after I started my research, Odra Noel caught my attention. Odra, who is a trained doctor from the University of Basque and a Ph.D. from the University of London, dabbled with cell culture, dissection, intracellular organelles when she realized that her enthusiastic interest in scientific art could be combined with scientific art creation. My quest to know about her transition into the world of scientific art (a subject which is very close to my heart) I reached out to Odra to know about her work and transition. “I always knew I was an artist. I had the soul of an artist. But making a living from art is even more difficult than making a living as a scientist, for the simple reason that we need many more scientists than artists. I never left science, my main activity, and the one that pays the bills is science. I do art in my spare time and use it to balance my life. I use art to think, to understand and to communicate science” Odra said when I asked her when did she realize she wanted to be an artist. Realizing from my experience that how hard such a transition can be for someone who is trained to work in the lab, solving problems to have a deeper understanding of life for several years at a stretch, I couldn’t resist myself to ask “so how was the transition?.” “My transition was partial and seamless. I always had made art on the side, so to make it a bit more ‘official’ was not difficult” she said, adding “It takes a lot of planning and energy. Having two lives is fun, but you need to make sacrifices because there are only 24 hours in each day.” I realized for a graduate student to pursue hobby vis a vis his/her lab life one needs a supportive mentor and so I asked: “how supportive was your alma mater/PI when you made the choice of a nonacademic career?” Odra’s response was “people are generally very supportive. But you need a certain amount of evidence that you know what you are doing. Not an unplanned ‘follow’ your heart in my case.”
My short interview ended with her claiming to be a ‘nongame changer.’ Well, she is modest about her achievements, but if you look at her work, you will realize that her work efficiently communicates science in a fun and artistic way. She also sets an example for us (PhDs) to have wholesome lives where our lives are more than our research jobs.

Just a few more lines about her:
Apart from training in science (Ph.D.), she has gained training in arts and aesthetics. She mainly paints cellular processes, membrane and cellular organelles on silks. Chloroplast and mitochondria are her favorite subjects. She ensures that the colors are vibrant and catchy to an uninitiated buyer, but when someone buys her product, they take a scientific concept home. Her art cover has also featured in scientific journal covers and science art exhibitions. She juggles her life between art and science.

So that was my way of knowing someone who is a full-time scientist and an artist. It is already well past midnight, and I need to finish my next set of illustrations…..

To find out more about Odra Noel’s artwork, please visit http://odranoel.eu/gallery/. For those in London, some of her pieces will be part of the exhibition ‘Transplant and life’ at the Hunterian Museum in the Royal College of Surgeons, London, from 22 November 2017 to mid march 2018.

Image is taken from Odra Noel’s Facebook page with her permission.

 

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Ipsa is a Ph.D. student at IISc. She wants to gather and spread interestingness. She prefers painting and drawing over writing. She is grateful that Diptadip Dattaroy and Ananda Ghosh took the pains of editing her poor writing.

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